New super-sensitive microwave detectors from the National Institute of Standards and Technology may soon tackle the question of what happened immediately following the big bang. "The new experiment will begin approximately a year from now on the Chilean desert and will consist of placing a large array of powerful NIST sensors on a telescope mounted in a converted shipping container. The detectors will look for subtle fingerprints in the CMB [cosmic microwave background] from primordial gravitational waves — ripples in the fabric of space-time from the violent birth of the universe more than 13 billion years ago. Such waves are believed to have left a faint but unique imprint on the direction of the CMB's electric field, called the 'B-mode polarization.' These waves — never before confirmed through measurements — are potentially detectable today, if sensitive enough equipment is used."
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